Conversion of Highway 71 to Interstate 49 marks a milestone in my lifetime which has evolved around that road. In 1936, during the heart of the Great Depression, my father Claude Fleetwood courageously started Fleetwood Chevrolet. Kansas City’s southern border then was 63rd Street. He began in an old building with a little office and two service stalls, located at the intersection of Highway 71 and a gravel road. That gravel road is now Bannister Road.
In 1939 he moved the dealership to Main Street in Belton. The used car lot was on old 71 Highway which is now Highway 58. In the early 1960s old Belton was bypassed with a new section of Highway 71, and in 1972, the dealership moved to the intersection Highways 71 and 58 At that time, Raymore was about 800 people. Now, Raymore and Belton are Missouri’s fastest growing cities, with population approaching 50,000 people.
‘Location, location, location.’ That often expressed phrase has been the story of Cass County’s growth throughout the past 60 years That growth has come in spurts, with every major road improvement followed by a big surge in population. Cass County communities — Belton, Raymore, Peculiar, Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, even small towns such as Cleveland, Drexel, Archie, and Garden City — are strategically poised for tremendous population increases.
Quietly gaining new people and businesses, Cass County is probably Kansas City’s best kept regional secret, and once discovered could become the area’s biggest attraction for new business. That breakthrough may happen this week when Belton’s superstar Tate Stevens captivates the nation as the $5 million X-Factor winner. He has created unity among the entire community.
Even arch rivals Belton and Ray-Pec schools have cooperated with a friendly voting contest. Even Pleasant Hill brags about their part in helping kick off our Cass County Cowboy’s career. He might become the catalyst for unheard-of county-wide teamwork, which could capitalize on his fame by bringing people and business to every city.
At the I-49 dedication last week, it was easy to see the pride for the accomplishment shared by mayors from Grandview, Belton, Raymore, Peculiar, Harrisonville and Archie. These community leaders, along with counterparts from Butler, Nevada, Lamar, Jasper and Joplin have created a vital link in the dream of connecting New Orleans to Minnesota.
Thanks to the combined efforts of many people, Cass County is well positioned to become the best place to live and do business during the years ahead.